Thursday, July 30, 2009

Signed, sealed, delivered, at last!

It was a happy day in Buffalo yesterday as well over 100 preservationists, developers, and others gathered to watch Governor Paterson sign legislation that enhances the New York State Historic Preservation Tax Credit. The Landmark Society has been part of a statewide coalition, led by the tireless efforts of Daniel Mackay at the Preservation League of New York State, that advocated for years for the original tax credit - which passed in 2006, with limitations that made it unworkable - and then on the revisions, which have been on an unbelievable legislative roller-coaster over the past three years.

Tuesday afternoon we got the news that the governor would be signing the legislation in Buffalo on Wednesday at 1. Joanne and I cleared our schedules - we wouldn't miss this for the world! It was wonderful to be part of the enthusiastic crowd that filled the gorgeous atrium of the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, including a number of legislators and other dignitaries. We heard remarks by Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo, a strong advocate for the legislation; from legislative sponsors, including Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, whose persistent support of the program was crucial; and from Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. Governor Paterson's remarks demonstrated that he truly understands the value of the legislation and its potential to create jobs and tax revenues, and be a significant catalyst for revitalization of neighborhoods and downtowns. We learned that he has a background in historic preservation in Harlem, and was the keynote speaker at a National Trust conference in Florida in the early 1990s - he told us there are few issues dearer to his heart than preservation and that he was delighted to sign the legislation.

In the coming weeks, we will be working with our colleagues at the Preservation League and at the State Historic Preservation Office to understand exactly how this program will be implemented and how we can best facilitate its use in western New York. One of the great benefits is that whereas the 2006 version of the program could only be used in the most distressed neighborhoods, this one is more broadly defined so that many more historic neighborhoods and buildings are eligible. Stay tuned for details!

(Photos, from top: Governor Paterson's remarks; Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of NYS, speaks; Governor Paterson about to sign, with bill sponsor Assemblyman Sam Hoyt at his left shoulder.)

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Governor Paterson will sign Historic Preservation Tax Credit TODAY!

Hooray! This is something we've been working on for what seems like eons. Thanks to all who placed calls or wrote letters to help make this success possible!!

The signing is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at the Buffalo & Erie Co. Historical Society. We will have more details as the day unfolds so please check back for updates on this incredible event. Landmark Society Exec. Director Joanne Arany and Director of Preservation, Katie Comeau, will be present at the signing. ...please check back here, on our website or our Twitter.

This legislation improves the existing but underutilized New York State Rehabilitation Tax Credit programs to better serve municipal redevelopment and economic stimulus goals throughout New York State. An economic impact study recently conducted by HR&A Advisors of New York, an industry leader in economic development, real estate and public policy consulting, projects that the rehabilitation tax credit will spur over $500 million dollars of economic activity in New York State and create some 2,000 jobs over its five-year lifespan. (source: Preservation League of NY State)

If you'd like to learn more about this, The Buffalo News ran a terrific editorial on why this legislation makes sense. You can read it here.

Posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

public art and preservation sittin' in a know the rest.

I received a link to a story in the UK Daily Mail on Twitter (follow us! @LandmarkSociety) this morning from user @AmazingPics about an artist who paints 3-D murals. If these don't blow your mind then, well, I don't know what to tell you.

Here are a few photos from that article. (Yes, those are walls. Really.):

(images from John Pugh, Barcroft media from above-mentioned article).

Now while I haven't yet seen anything of this magnitude here in Rochester, I believe our city is fairly progressive when it comes to public art installations. More progressive in some ways than many places I've lived such as Baltimore and even San Francisco.

Examples? Parking meters ripped out left ugly now we have parking meter totems in the South Wedge like this... (image via

...and of course bus stops in the Neighborhood of the Arts can't be boring (image via :

These are merely two small examples, not quite doing justice to the magnitude of what we have. We have sculpture, painting, tile, murals and countless other wonders placed throughout the city, with more hopefully on the way (check out ArtWalk II for some cool stuff going on.) In fact, there is so much that Richard Margolis, a local photographer, started a website dedicated to cataloging it all: Rochester Public Art.

On his site, it is written: "PUBLIC ART is revolutionary. Art teaches people to see for themselves, to trust what they feel, and to imagine. It encourages people to step out of line, to think for themselves, challenge authority, be individuals, test the limits, and create new relationships between themselves and the world." Sounds like a perfect partner to the horn we toot here at The Landmark Society: encouraging people to embrace their built environment, and promoting preservation and planning practices that foster healthy, livable, and sustainable communities.

So this question I pose to you: What place does public art have in your built environment? Is art something preservationists and/or urban planners should consider as a viable segment of what we do every day, or is it an ancillary factor?

I can think of many instances the two have been married, the most prominent being the High Line in NYC. (Also, our subway...but I have alterior motives there *cough*EdNortonCallMe*cough*) Still, as we strive to revitalize our cities, this may very well be a subject we need to look at more closely. For an interesting read on this subject, I recommend this terrific study by a group of Genesee Community Charter School students daring us to imagine a Rochester with more public art.

So what's it like where you live?

(p.s. for more on Rochester living, please check out

Posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The case for rehab tax credits

Fine editorials in the Syracuse Post-Standard and the Schenectady Daily Gazette lay out the reasons the Governor should sign the bill to enhance the NYS Rehabilitation Tax Credit as a wise investment in strengthening communities across the state.

In some ways, this is a difficult time to advocate for any type of tax credit, but on the other hand, this is the time when it's needed the most. Similar programs in other states have demonstrated impressive returns, in the form of jobs, investment, tax revenues, and revitalization in communities that badly need it. Specifically targeted to historic buildings in economically struggling areas, this is a program that encourages investment where it makes the most sense: our communities' cores, where the infrastructure already exists, where reuse of existing resources is inherently green, and where we can avert the negative impacts of new development elsewhere.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Need a neck brace yet?

Well, the Renaissance Square project just keeps getting more and more convoluted as days go on. If you've been following along at home, you've likely suffered whiplash from all the back and forth between Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy and RGRTA Chief Mark Aesch.

(If you need to get caught up on the Ren Square happenings, here are the latest pieces from CITY Newspaper and the Democrat and Chronicle.)

Many have asked us here at Landmark what we're doing in this process. In a nutshell, we're not the decision makers. We do, however, stand as we always do, for sound urban planning.

To that end, we've decided to share with you a letter we sent to the Rochester City Council on July 15 outlining our concerns. (You can read the letter in its entirety here.)

As Yogi Berra is oft-quoted, "It's ain't over 'til it's over..." With all of this taxpayer money on the line, and the impact this project will have on the urban fabric of Rochester, we hope once the dust settles that we can move forward with a plan that will be a shining star in Rochester's crown instead of something which tarnishes our glorious city.

posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing


Monday, July 20, 2009

Senate success for rehab tax credits!

Thank you to all who made calls on behalf of the expansion of the NYS tax credit for rehabilitation of historic properties! The legislation passed the state Senate in the very early hours of July 17 and we hope it will be headed to the Governor's desk for signature very soon.

Daniel Mackay of the Preservation League of New York State notes that "this legislation represents a significant advance for the program, and will allow us to focus our advocacy completely on the issues the NYS Department of Tax & Finance has with credit allocation."

Stay tuned for updates as we hear when the legislation moves ahead - we may need one more round of phone calls!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Your Action Needed TODAY!

An update from Daniel Mackay at the Preservation League of New York State:

We are making a final push to assure that Senate Bill S.6056 which significantly expands the NYS Rehabilitation Tax Credit programs for commercial and residential historic properties, is on the Senate bill agenda for today’s session. While the Senate passed an earlier version of this tax credit expansion legislation in June before their leadership crisis, passage of this new bill is necessary to match the bill the Assembly passed in late June.

With Senate passage of S.6056 today, the bill can be sent to the Governor for signature.

We are requesting your call to Senate President Malcolm Smith’s office and request that “S.6056 be included on the Senate bill agenda for today’s session” as it represents a critical economic and community development for New York State”: 518-455-2701.

Calls by 1:00 PM would be extremely helpful, but session is expected to continue into the evening, so calls made later today are also worth making.

If you've never made one of these advocacy calls before, now is the time to give it a try! It is painless and takes a minute or less - they simply record your name, sometimes your address, and whether you support or oppose the legislation. That's it! It's important that supporters of this legislation log a lot of calls today so that the Senate can see that there is strong support for economic stimulus through historic preservation and finally get this bill passed. Thanks for your help!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Indiana Jones....the preservationist?

Interesting article in today's CITY Newspaper about the role archeologists play in preservation. Share your thoughts! - LKZ

Precious Pieces of the Past
by Christine Carrie Fien

Ewing and his staff bid competitively
on jobs throughout the Northeast, guiding clients - often developers or municipalities - through archaeological, architectural, and historical compliance issues.

"The developer foots the bill," Ewing says. "They don't like it, but they have to do it because it's part of their permitting process."

Ewing's team provides archaeological reviews to make sure the history and culture of chosen sites are protected before development begins. The reviews are required for projects that are funded, licensed, or approved by state or federal agencies.

...The goal is to eventually arrive at a recommendation: Does the site have the potential to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Making the list is "a pat on the head," Lanphear says, and it enables the town to apply for grants for the property. There are other benefits, as well.

(Con't here ...but be sure to come back and share your thoughts and experiences on our blog!)

posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing


Monday, July 6, 2009

So what would you put in the required display windows at a new Rite Aid, anyway?

Here in Rochester, yet another Rite-Aid rises on a key corner, despite noble attempts of the citizenry to thwart it. Yet another chain pharmacy in a city with a declining population, and another in a region with no overall population growth. More chain pharmacies for the same or fewer number of people. Economic development at its highest and best.

This one’s different, though: it’s only about half as ugly as most other Rite-Aids, thanks to some insistence by the City of Rochester that the development adhere to some of its codes and design standards. It is built to the sidewalk, is multi-story (although I hear the second floor is nothing more than a facade), and has display windows at the street level, along the sidewalks. (Check out renderings of this Rochester Rite Aid here)

So I have to admit it’s a slightly better design than most chain pharmacies, many of which look like drive-through mausoleums. But while some might consider the better design a victory for good land use/development planning and design, the Monroe Avenue-Goodman Street Rite Aid in Rochester illuminates another big problem for American communities– the sad decline and devolution of retail, and shopping in this country.

It wasn’t that long ago when cities like Rochester had downtown and neighborhood streets lined with independent businesses, housed in handsome buildings with awnings, and with well-made, locally-made goods and products (The Radio Flyer? The wool sweaters? The work boots? The hot-out-of-oven pies?) displayed proudly in the windows.

So the City of Rochester makes Rite Aid build in display windows. But what on earth would a Rite-Aid PUT in such a window that would make us feel good about shopping there, shopping in general, or walking by the store? Um, let’s see:

New CankerCover Cankersore Patches

A cornucopia of lozenges

Cheap, smelly, out-of-round vinyl toy balls made by cents-per-day laborers in Bangladesh

Pyramid of Rite Aid-brand prune products: pitted fruit and juice (I’m not making this up)

The several large-format malt liquors in stock

You know, the kinds of things that Rite Aid sells. The kinds of things I’m sure would appeal to you, the window shopper, as you stroll down Monroe Avenue in Rochester.

Posted by Evan Lowenstein, coordinator of RochesterCityLiving at the Landmark Society. Evan is also the founder/Director of Green Village Consulting in Rochester ( This blog post originally appeared on the Green Village site.